Hinterkaifeck five days after the attack
|Location||Modern-day Waidhofen, Bavaria, Germany|
|Date||31 March 1922|
|Home invasion, mass murder|
Hinterkaifeck was a small farmstead situated between the Bavarian towns of Ingolstadt and Schrobenhausen, approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) north of Munich. On the evening of 31 March 1922, the six inhabitants of the farm were killed with a mattock. The murders remain unsolved.
The six victims were parents Andreas Gruber (63) and Cäzilia (72); their widowed daughter Viktoria Gabriel (35); Viktoria's children, Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2); and the maid, Maria Baumgartner (44).
Hinterkaifeck was never an official place name. The name was used for the remote farmstead of the hamlet of Kaifeck, located nearly 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) north of the main part of Kaifeck and hidden in the woods (the prefix Hinter, part of many German place names, means behind), part of the town of Wangen, which was incorporated into Waidhofen in 1971.
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A few days prior to the crime, farmer Andreas Gruber told neighbours about discovering footprints in the snow leading from the edge of the forest to the farm, but none leading back. He also spoke about hearing footsteps in the attic and finding an unfamiliar newspaper on the farm. Furthermore, the house keys went missing several days before the murders. None of this was reported to the police prior to the attack.
Six months earlier, the previous maid had left the farm, claiming that it was haunted; the new maid, Maria Baumgartner, arrived on the farm on the day of the attack and was killed hours later.
Exactly what happened on that Friday evening cannot be said for certain. It is believed that the older couple, as well as their daughter Viktoria, and her daughter, Cäzilia, were all lured into the barn one by one, where they were killed. The perpetrator(s) then went into the house where they killed two‑year‑old Josef, who was sleeping in his cot in his mother's bedroom, as well as the maid, Maria Baumgartner, in her bedchamber.
On the following Tuesday, 4 April, neighbours came to the farmstead because none of its inhabitants had been seen for a few days. The postman had noticed that the post from the previous Saturday was still where he had left it. Furthermore, young Cäzilia had neither turned up for school on Monday, nor had she been there on Saturday.
Inspector Georg Reingruber and his colleagues from the Munich Police Department investigated the killings. More than 100 suspects have been questioned throughout the years, with the most recent questioning taking place in 1986. None of the questioning yielded any conclusive results.
The day after the discovery of the bodies, court physician Johann Baptist Aumüller performed the autopsies in the barn. It was established that a mattock was the most likely murder weapon. Evidence showed that the younger Cäzilia had been alive for several hours after the assault – she had torn her hair out in tufts while lying in the straw, next to the bodies of her grandparents and her mother. The skulls of the corpses were sent to Munich, where clairvoyants examined them, to no avail. The heads were later lost, possibly destroyed in the Allied bombings in World War II.
The police first suspected the motive to be robbery, and they interrogated traveling craftsmen, vagrants, and several inhabitants from the surrounding villages. This theory was abandoned when a large amount of money was found in the house. It is believed that the perpetrator(s) remained at the farm for several days – someone had fed the cattle and eaten food in the kitchen, and the neighbours saw smoke from the chimney during the weekend – and would have easily found the money if robbery had been the intention.
The death of Karl Gabriel, Viktoria's husband (who had been reported killed in the French trenches in World War I), was called into question. His body had never been found. However, most of his fellow soldiers reported seeing him die, and the police believed their reports.
Two-year-old Josef was rumoured to be the son of Viktoria and her father Andreas, who had an incestuous relationship that was documented in court and known in the village. A neighbouring farmer named Lorenz Schlittenbauer publicly claimed to be Josef's father, and paid alimony to Viktoria and Andreas. Shortly before the murders, Viktoria was preparing to sue Schlittenbauer, who by then had a wife and a baby, for alimony. Schlittenbauer was part of the original search party that found the corpses, and he disturbed the bodies before the police arrived. The police questioned Schlittenbauer extensively but were unable to find concrete evidence linking him to the crime.
In 2007, the students of the Polizeifachhochschule (Police Academy) in Fürstenfeldbruck examined the case using modern criminal investigation techniques. They concluded that it is impossible to definitively solve the crime after so much time had passed. The primitive investigation techniques available at the time of the murders yielded little evidence, and in the decades since the murders, evidence has been lost and suspects have since died. Despite these setbacks, the students did establish a prime suspect, but did not name the suspect out of respect for still‑living relatives.
The six victims are buried in Waidhofen, where there is a memorial in the graveyard. The skulls were never returned from Munich, after having been lost during the chaos of World War II.
The farm was demolished a year after the attacks, in 1923. Close to where the farm was located, there is now a shrine.
In popular culture
There are two films with the name Hinterkaifeck: one by Hans Fegert from 1981, and one by Kurt K. Hieber in 1991.
In 2006, German writer Andrea Maria Schenkel wrote a novel entitled Tannöd where she tells the story of Hinterkaifeck using different names for the locations and people involved. Also the novel The Murdered House, written by French writer Pierre Magnan, is allegedly inspired by this case. In this novel, the youngest victim of the massacre survives and returns to the farm as an adult to investigate the crime.
Munich journalist Peter Leuschner wrote two books with the title Hinterkaifeck: Der Mordfall. Spuren eines mysteriösen Verbrechens. in 1979 and 1997. The second book is an extension of the first book. The title means Hinterkaifeck. The Murder Case. Traces of a mysterious crime. In this book, Leuschner quotes the original police files.
In October 2015, popular podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class covered the HinterKaifeck murders.
In 2016, popular podcast Stuff You Should Know did a show on the events that occurred for their pre-Halloween special.
In 2016, Buzzfeed's Unsolved: True Crime covered the case, discussing possible theories of who did it.
In 2017, in episode 7 of the podcast And That's Why We Drink, Christine Schiefer discusses the Hinterkaifeck murders in depth.
In 2017, the last chapter of The Man from the Train, briefly discusses the murders at Hinterkaifeck and the possibility that they might have been committed by the titular serial killer. The authors rate the chances as "more or less a toss-up" but conclude "there's no real reason to believe that it's not him."
- Leuschner, Peter (1997): Hinterkaifeck. Spuren eines mysteriösen Verbrechens. p. 76 ff.
- "Inzestuöse Beziehung Viktoria Gabriel / Andreas Gruber". Der Mordfall Hinterkaifeck. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Hinter Kaifeck (2009) on IMDb
- 1949-, James, Bill,. The man from the train : the solving of a century-old serial killer mystery. James, Rachel McCarthy, (First Scribner hardcover ed.). New York. ISBN 9781476796253. OCLC 962016034.
- Guido Golla (2016). Hinterkaifeck: Autopsie eines Sechsfachmordes. Norderstedt 2016, ISBN 978-3-741239-53-3.